Tom Petrone has represented the 27th district, which includes parts of Crafton, Dormont, Ben Avon, McKees Rocks, and Neville and Stowe townships, for 26 years. In that time, his campaign boasts, his office has compiled a record of helping seniors with their taxes, and supporting economic development projects like funding for Heinz Field and PNC Park. More recently, he called for a task force to investigate the Kilbuck landslide that blocked Route 65 for days. He received unanimous support for a bill targeting abandoned cars as a way to fight blight.
Such political instincts have served him well: He's got financial backing from unions and individuals in his district, and in the May primary he prevailed over a field of other Democratic hopefuls.
But in 2005, like many veteran legislators, Petrone voted to accept the pay raise. And as in many other districts, that move lit a fire under citizens who wanted to challenge him. One Republican challenger still remains.
Bill Ogden's campaigning on a remember-the-pay-raise, throw-the-bums-out platform. He's a small-business owner, muscle-man-in-chief at Bill Ogden's Weight Room in Crafton, and he's on the Crafton Borough Council. He and his wife teach Sunday school at their church. Like Petrone, he served in the military, Ogden as an Army MP and Petrone in the Navy.
Ogden says that cleaning up blight is one simple, straightforward way to attract jobs and businesses, and that blight is a concern he hears from people in the district. Tidying up, he says, is a simpler and fairer way to attract businesses, rather than offering financial incentives. He says that Petrone, who has also made anti-blight statements, needs to start with his own office. "The office is falling apart. You have to lead and set a tone."
Petrone did not return numerous calls from CP.
Term limits, Ogden says, are a must. "The freshmen didn't vote for the pay raise," he says. He's also in favor of reducing the size of the legislature, increasing the number of constituents per legislator by 30 percent.
There's no need for a constitutional overhaul by way of convention to achieve this, though, he says. "Our constitution's been reformed so many times, it's been deformed," he says of the four conventions that have occurred since 1776. His concern is that it would be nearly impossible to have impartial selection of what was up for debate.
Petrone's property-tax relief mostly targets senior citizens through rebates. Ogden says it should be abolished because assessments are too subjective and opinion-based, and they penalize homeowners for fixing up their houses. The revenue, though, must be replaced and he supports a 3 percent sales tax on items that have traditionally not been subject to sales tax, like clothing.
The proposed statewide smoking ban, which Petrone has come out in favor of, doesn't sit well with Ogden. "Last time I looked, smoking is still legal. I don't like the government coming in and telling me I can't have smoking in here. If I want to have Smokey's Gym, I should -- though there's not a market."